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Stat Attack: How Cleary and Moses's kicking games compare

Nathan Cleary and Mitch Moses are regarded among the NRL's elite kickers, so whichever halfback is most efficient with the boot could decide Saturday's semi-final.

Panthers No.7 Cleary has taken his general kicking game to new levels this season, terrorising opponents with swirling bombs, punting deep and showing Andrew Johns-like skill in attacking scenarios.

And the Eels depend on the right foot of Moses, who replaced an injured Cleary in the NSW halfback role for State of Origin III this year.

Leading into their sudden-death tussle at Mackay's BB Print Stadium, NRL Stats has crunched the numbers to see how the rival playmakers compare in general-play kicking.

Despite Cleary having played four fewer matches than Moses so far in 2021 due to a shoulder injury, the prince of Penrith has racked up more kick metres than anyone else (8842m).

In round 23, Cleary kicked for 844 metres – giving him the fourth-biggest return in a game since detailed records have been kept.

Moses isn't all that far behind, ranking third with 8092 total kick metres this season. And he has kicked for the second-most metres in a game on record with 893 in round 18 last year.

Much has been made in recent weeks of Cleary's ability to thoroughly test out fullbacks and wingers with his torpedo assaults.

But Moses has been the undisputed king of forcing errors from opponents, doing so on 21 occasions – the most in the competition. Cleary (11) is ranked equal-sixth in this department.

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And Moses again has the advantage for try assists from kicks, recording 11 (second-most) to Cleary's respectable eight (equal fifth).

As he's developed, Cleary has become a master at building pressure – and that's reflected in the 19 drop-outs he's forced this year with Moses (16) similarly as good at finding the in-goal.

Cleary's impressive accuracy isn't limited to grubber and bombs, with the 23-year-old finding space with 25 of his long kicks (equal second). With 16, Moses ranks equal eighth in that area.

The biggest factor in the duel between Cleary and Moses could well be the attention they receive from the opposing forward pack.

The topic of protecting kickers has been in the headlines of late, but Cleary said on Tuesday he doesn't believe he is unfairly targeted.

"Every team tries to put kick pressure on, it's a goal for every team. When you come up against some of the better teams, the way to win is to try and control field position," Cleary said.

"And the way to do that is to have good kick-pressure. It's something that all the best teams value and it's just a part of the game.

"To combat that you try and get good position on the field, you try and get quick play the balls to get less kick pressure."

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Eels captain Clint Gutherson said last month that Cleary and Moses were "inventing the kicking game again".

"We're lucky to have Mitchy and he's got one of if not the best kicking game in the comp," said Gutherson, who has played Origin with Cleary.

"We rely on that so heavily as all teams do [on] their halves to kick well. Nath just as much – he chucks these new floaters up that are extremely hard to catch, but as fullbacks and wingers, you've got to catch them and that's all you've got to worry about."

Meanwhile, Telstra Tracker data shows that Parramatta's back five, halves and starting props are making more high-speed metres per game (20km/h or more) compared to Penrith.

Collectively, the Eels' back five have made 550 high-speed metres per game compared to 442 with similar margins for the halves (427hsm v 317hsm) and props (156hsm v 146hsm).

This could be explained by Parramatta conceding 134 line-breaks to the Panthers' 73, requiring them to scramble well in defence.

When it comes to speed, Gutherson (35.1km/h) is the only man on either side to crack 35km/h this year while powerhouse Penrith winger Brian To'o (34.7km/h) has hit the highest peak on his side.

In averaging 9099km per game and 100.8 metres per minute, Cleary leads the halves from both sides for distance covered and intensity.